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 Naturopathic Medicine : Insomnia 

  • Bupleurum and Peony F. (Jia Wei Xiao Yao San) for Liver Qi Stagnation with Yin Deficiency, particularly with menopausal or menstrual difficulties. "Yin" is the fluid, feminine, dark, deep form of our vital force while "Yang" is the solid, masculine, light, surface aspect.

  • Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang a classic formulation for Blood Stagnation which shows up as insomnia with depression, extreme anger, headache, poor memory, chest or abdominal pain, purple tongue (the classic sign of blood stagnation).

  • Zizyphus C. (Suan Zao Ren Tang) for Liver Blood Deficiency with Liver Yang Rising: insomnia caused by deficiency and overwork, indecision, many dreams, dry mouth and throat, night sweats; also with chronic illness

  • Gardenia and Soja C. (Zhi Zi Dou Chi Tang) a patent medicine for insomnia with tossing and turning in bed and very restless sleep thereafter, irritability, slightly rapid pulse and slightly yellow tongue coat.
    Another important part of TCM is using ultra-fine needles to tap into, and stimulate to optimal circulation, the Qi, or vital force, which runs throughout the meridians. Based on your diagnosis, the acupuncturist will decide on several acupoints, which should help your sleep after 3 to 10 treatments. After the course of treatment, you may need an acupuncture "tune-up" from time to time. Below are given a brief list of the locations of some of the pertinent points.
    • Governing Vessel-20 is located right on the top of the head and is a great release point for excess heat, anger, frustration or nervousness that "rises" and builds up in the head. Needling this point can calm the nerves, relieve headaches and stabilize the willpower.

    • an mian is an extra point which means "sweet sleep," located at the top of the neck just behind the ears. It functions to calm the Spirit (Shen) to enable restful sleep.

    • yi ming (-): calms the Shen to enable restful sleep

    • Bladder-38 is above the back of the knee and is known as the "Happy point" because it strengthens Deficiency conditions, tonifies the Heart function and releases unresolved emotions.

    • Bladder-15 is located about an inch lateral to the spine on the back at the level of the heart and works to clear the Brain, calm the Heart and the Shen (Spirit), relieve palpitations, regulate the Xue (Blood) and Qi and relax the chest.

    • Bladder-23 is also about an inch away from the spine, at about waist level. It the major point on the back regulating the Kidney function. Since insomnia, in TCM, is primarily due to imbalance between the Heart and Kidneys, both these organs must be properly treated to relieve your restless sleeping.

    • yin tang is a famous extra point right between the eyebrows. It is famous for its calming effect on the entire system, probably because it stimulates the pituitary and pineal glands, thereby promoting relaxation.

    • Heart-7 is located near the inner wrist and is specific for insomnia due to fear or an internal organ problem.

    • Spleen-2, located at the inner aspect of the base of the big toe is said to be the patient who "cannot lie still in bed."

    • Stomach-45, on the top of the foot, between the second and third toes, pacifies the Shen (Spirit) and facilitates flow of Qi.

    • Liver-3 is between the big and second toes on the front of the foot and also pacifies the Shen, relieves anger and mellows spirits of those who are frustrated and jealous.

    • Kidney-6, near the inner ankles is yet another point to pacify the Shen and also stabilizes the Will, nourishes the Heart, balances excess or deficiency of any hormonal secretion, and sedates pain.
    Can Homeopathy help me get a good night sleep regularly?
    Yes it can, but like TCM the prescriptions are made based on your constitution, and not on the disease, or in the case of insomnia, the symptom alone. Therefore it is advisable to consult a skilled homeopath before using these remedies. Some of the more common ones used in insomnia, with their peculiar indications, are as follows:
    • Aconitum napellus for sleeplessness after midnight with anxiety and nervous fear; restlessness; skin hot and dry; increased thirst for cold water.

    • Arsenicum album also for sleeplessness after midnight; nervous exhaustion; restlessness and prostration; due to nausea and gastric troubles; fear of death or of being left alone; thirst for small sips.

    • Belladonna is the remedy for sleeplessness of nervous excitement; flushed face; starting on first falling to sleep; sleep interrupted by talking, startings, muscular jerkings and spasmodic motions; head hot and throbbing; worse from noise and light.

    • Calcarea carbonica is for the workaholic insomniac, troubled by phantoms; by frightful images which appear as soon as the eyes are shut.

    • Chamomilla works well in children for insomnia due to irritability; for complaints of bowels and flatulence; sleeplessness due to pain; teething in children; the child wants to be carried.

    • Cinchona is well known as a malaria remedy and is also useful for sleeplessness from exhausting diseases; the mind indulges in castle building; there may be a pressure-type pain in the head; this insomniac will start with fright as they begin to fall asleep.

    • Coffea, a remedy derived from coffee, treats sleeplessness due to exciting, agreeable causes; this person cannot switch off their mind; all the senses are more acute; the insomnia is especially pronounced during convalescence from acute diseases.

    • Hyoscyamus is for sleeplessness from nervous excitement with bewildering ideas and images; the patient complains of tossing about the bed.

    • Ignatia, made from the strychnine nut, treats sleeplessness from grief, fright or suppressed mental suffering; for women with sleepless "hysteria."

    • Lachesis, from snake venon, is for excessive mental exertion which prohibits sleep; particularly at menopause when there are frequent hot flushes and a felling of heat at the top of the head.

    • Nux vomica, an addiction remedy, is for poor sleep from a "crowd of ideas"; night-watching; when late-night reading or singing is followed by wakefulness; this patient awakes from anxiety and frightful dreams; insomnia comes after the use of drugs, strong coffee, and/or tobacco.

    • Pulsatillais given to the insomniac who is wakeful until early morning, then falls sound asleep but wakes unrefreshed. The symptoms are worse at menstruation; this remedy if for mild, timid women who suffer from indigestion and feel better in a cool breeze.

    • Rhus toxicodendron, made from the Poison Ivy plant, is for the patient who is extremely restless with general soreness; is worse getting wet, better from heat, and has "exercise dreams" of walking, running or climbing.

    • Sulphur is a remedy for the "hot, rumpled philosopher" who's mind is cluttered with arithmatic figures; sleeps for short periods of time only, or wakes frequently, or sleeps all day and is sleepless at night.

    What about Subtle Energy techniques to help me sleep?
    Check the Introduction to Modalities essay to learn more about some of the Subtle Energy techniques in more detail. Flower essences are similar to homeopathic remedies in preparation, but work primarily on a mental/emotional level. Some of the flower essences used most frequently for insomnia are:
    • agrimony
    • rock water
    • beech
    • oak
    • olive
    • pine
    • sweet chestnut
    • cherry plum
    • water violet
    • impatiens
    • willow
    • centaury
    • elm
    • heather
    • honeysuckle
    • chamomile
    • chaparrel
    • white chestnut
    • red chestnut
    • mimulus
    • dill
    • lavender
    • Saint John's wort

    Others have found relief from the use of color therapy, either by wearing clothing of certain colors, or using plastic gels over light sources at home or work. Here are some ideas for applying this simple, deeply effective technique:
    • violet acts as a tranquilizer when directed towards the face
    • purple raises the threshold of pain and is soporific when applied on the face, throat and chest if your pulse fast or throbbing
    • blue on the forehead and temples for 5 minutes before bed
    • orange on abdomen
    • green or magenta
    • indigo, blue, green and orange
    Yet another method is the use of precious or semi-precious gems to subtly balance the disharmony which may be causing your sleeplessness. Try the following, either by wearing jewelry made with these elements, or placing them in significant places in your home or bedroom:
    • Pearl
    • Moonstone
    • Ruby, Coral, Topaz, Cat's Eye combination
    Should I consider Guided Imagery or Meditation for my insomnia?
    Sleep is the time to rest the body, mind and spirit. During sleep the autonomic ("automatic") portion of the nervous system kicks in, our brain waves slow way down, we are temporarily relieved from the struggle against gravity, and the vital organs, including the brain, perform detailed and minute repairs throughout the night. Psychological techniques may well be the KEY to restoring your restorative night's sleep, without which life can quickly become miserable. Consider the following ideas, and if any of them rings true for you, pursue the thought further.
    • Inability to forget the day may be due to guilt.
    • Fear of death, since sleep can be equated to death.
    • Depression can be a major cause of insomnia.
    • Habit-bound insomnia.
    • Fear. Not trusting the process of life. Guilt.
    • Insomniacs are afraid of the night, of passivity. Transitoriness and death are important issues for them. They are lacking in native trust and the capacity for self surrender, and are usually identified with their active pole, the 'doer'.
    Now consider the following ideas for modifying your behavior before and around bedtime:
    • Bed should be used for sleeping, and not for other activities such as reading, watching TV, or eating. The bed should be behaviorally associated with sleeping.
    • Meditation, breath concentration, mantra recitation, counting sheep; all these methods are monotonously boring to the left side of the brain and allow it to let go of its dominance.
    A very important technique for aiding sleep is called progressive relaxation. This is where, when lying comfortably in mind, you systematically focus on, and consciously relax, each part of your body starting with your toes, moving up through the ankles, calves, knees, etc all the way up the the head. Don't forget to visualize the inner organs relaxing when you're at the belly. And don't forget the eyes, ears and brain. Feel the tissues softening, becoming warm and heavy, and compliant to the idea of deep relaxation. You should be feeling somewhat sleepy just reading this!

    Other folks may get more sustained benefit from creating soothing "pictures" in their minds, such as the classic sheep-counting exercise, or imagining yourself drifting down a stream. And you can also talk to yourself, looking gently in the mirror, or writing up a mini-pep talk and posting it in the bedroom. An example from Louise Hay, the affirmation "queen" is:
    · I lovingly release the day and slip into a peaceful sleep, knowing tomorrow will take care of itself.

    Another psychological technique that may help insomnia is
    hypnotherapy. This is a light trance state, self-induced or facilitated by a therapist, which allows you to backtrack in your history to the time before you had problems sleeping. When a series of memories is recalled through this method, you can get to the forgotten traumatic source of a personality problem that had previously been in your unconscious mind. This gives your body to physiologically recreate the hormone-encoded source of a problem that can now be accessed and reframed therapeutically.

    Restful sleep implies the ability to bring the day consciously to a close, so as to give yourself over totally to the night. Sleeplessness could be taken as a cue for asking the following questions:

    • Am I able to let go?
    • Am I having sufficient regard for the night-side of my soul?
    • How dependent am I on power, control, intellect, and observation?
    • How afraid am I of death? What terms have I come to with this?
    • How developed are my facilities for self-surrender?
    • What is the symptom preventing me from doing? What is the symptom making me do?
    As with all "diseases" or symptoms of imbalance, much can be learned about yourself by a little thoughtful exploration. There are no accidents, only a resistance to understanding.

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     About The Author
    Emily Kane NDA graduate of Bastyr University in Seattle, she completed both the Naturopathic and Acupuncture/Oriental Medicine programs. Her preceptor work (similar to residencies) took place in Seattle, West Virginia and China,......more
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